Vale’s Port Colborne refinery celebrates 100 years of operations

Ricus Grimbeek, Vale COO North Atlantic Operations & Asian Refineries, Del Fraipont, Port Colborne Refinery Retiree, Bob Saracino, John Maloney, Mayor City of Port Colborne, Mike McCann, Vale Director Process Operations North Atlantic Operations & Asian Refineries, Joe Costigan, Manager Port Colborne Refinery and Niagara Region MP Vance Badawey, seen here in front of Vale’s Port Colborne Refinery’s locomotive. Vale Canada Ltd. photo

Vale Canada Ltd. press release – Vale marked a century of operations at its Port Colborne Refinery Friday Sept. 21/2018. Vale officials, local dignitaries, United Steelworkers Local 6200 representatives and Port Colborne Refinery employees past and present were on hand to officially celebrate this significant milestone.

“Over the course of its hundred years of operations, our Port Colborne Refinery has produced high value nickel, cobalt and precious metals products and continues to be a vital component of Vale’s North Atlantic operations,” said Ricus Grimbeek, Chief Operating Officer of Vale’s North Atlantic Operations and Asian Refineries.  “We are proud to honour the proud history of this operation, and the many men and women that have contributed to its longevity and success.”

After two years of construction, the Port Colborne Refinery began operations in 1918, producing its first 1,565 tonnes of nickel. That same year, the village of Port Colborne was incorporated as a town thanks to the resulting spike in local population reaching 5,000 people.

“Vale, or INCO as it was called back in my summer student days, has shaped our community from past to present, said Port Colborne Mayor John Maloney.  “A memory I know many Port Colborne residents share is the plant’s former steam whistle – more than a signal for warning or shift change, it also ensured we knew our clocks were always set to the right time!”

“The City of Port Colborne is thankful for Vale’s continuous generosity and contributions to the Vale Health & Wellness Centre and events like the Canal Days Marine Heritage Festival,” the Mayor added. Congratulations to Vale on 100 years of success refining metals and 100 years of refining our community too.”

Over the years, the plant has provided thousands of jobs for the local community, with many current and retired employees still living in the area.

“Port Colborne grew up with Inco. Everyone in town had a father, mother, uncle, aunt, grandfather, grandmother, brother, sister, or cousin, who worked at the ‘nickel plant’,” said Niagara Region MP Vance Badawey.  “Our lives have been intertwined, through highs and lows, over an incredible century. Now, 100 years later, we continue to grow with Vale.”

 Today, with 190 employees, the Port Colborne Refinery packages and ships more than 45,000 tonnes of nickel annually – in addition to refining 1,675 tonnes of cobalt and 645,000 troy ounces of platinum group metals (PGMs). The plant will continue to be an important part of Vale’s flowsheet in Canada, especially as the cobalt market continues to grow with projected growth in the battery market and in demand for electric vehicles.

“We are proud of the Refinery’s rich history and even more excited about the future of this operation,” said Joe Costigan, Manager of the Port Colborne Refinery. “The strength of our operation lies in the strength of our people, and we have a great history on which to build as we continue to produce high quality products safely and reliably.”

Notwithstanding its long history, the Port Colborne Refinery recently expanded its operations. In 2011, the plant added three additional electrowinning cells to its cobalt circuit to produce additional cobalt rounds. In 2013, the plant completed the Tower Underflow Solids (TUS) project in its precious metals refinery to create tellurium dioxide, a marketable product not previously produced in Port Colborne.

All members of the community were invited to help celebrate Port Colborne Refinery’s 100 years of operations on Saturday, September 22nd at two locations from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m:

  • Port Colborne Refinery (187 Davis Street, Port Colborne)

For onsite historical displays, plant tours, and much more!

  • Vale Health and Wellness Centre (550 Elizabeth St, Port Colborne):

Bring the family to learn about Vale’s Port Colborne Refinery and also to enjoy an activity day!  Enjoy free access to the gym, swimming, skating and many other fun activities for kids of all ages!


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